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Wild Geese

My husband teases me that I say yoga is great for everything. Maybe it's not good for everything but yoga can prepare us to move through life’s joys and sorrows with ease and grace and to unify our minds, our bodies and our spirits so that we can live happier, healthier lives. 

In many ways joy can be as challenging to contain as grief. The intensity of joy floods the nervous system with exhilarating feel good hormones. Joy can be thrilling, exciting and stimulating. Grief, likewise creates a similarly intense response. Both emotions affect us profoundly; physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Moving through the asanas (poses), breathing practices, and meditation of a full yoga practice allows us to move stagnant energy from the body and helps us to remember and reunite with our true natures. Our mats can be places to return to again and again to clear out the cobwebs and relieve stored tension in the body.

This week I am recovering from wedding joy. (Yes, recovering from intense joy is a thing!) There is also the letdown after all the planning and the full weekend of festivities and celebrations. It was so much fun, extremely emotional and touching to see family and friends gathered to celebrate the happy couple. It was also exhausting.

I need yoga this week. I feel tired but am also flying high like the wild geese I keep seeing these past few days. There was so much love for this couple, my daughter and her now husband, our sweet new son-in-law. He could barely contain himself when those church doors opened to reveal his bride. Tears flowed from both of them even before her father and I walked her down the aisle. It was stunningly beautiful, sweet and sacred.

Have you noticed all of the wild geese flying overhead lately? I am in love with the geese. A few years back I recorded this, Mary Oliver’s Snow Geese, a poem about joy and it’s fleeting nature. I love this poem because it captures beautifully how transitory this emotion joy really is. Joy often seems like it's gone soon after it arrives. If only sorrow was as short-lived!

For ancient Celtic people wild geese symbolized God. Much like God, geese can be disruptive, surprising and sometimes unexpected, but also quite awesome and beautiful just the same. Like the geese, God sees from a higher vantage point and moves with perfect precision.

Consider the expression “wild goose chase”, meaning to chase after something that is hard to catch. Sounds a lot to me like our souls, our true selves, or God. There are times when God does seem elusive. This can be especially true in times of stress or sorrow. We may look and look but cannot find a trace of God in our lives. When this happens, I need to find something like those miraculous geese to tide me over until I can reconnect with what has been there all along. Yoga always helps. So does prayer, sacred writings, meditation, time with a dear friend, a good long nap…

Why do they fly in a V? I looked it up. It conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they need to stop to rest. They know when to fly, how to fly and where to fly. How do they know all of this? Their formations are precise. The sound of the wings flapping as they fly can be deafening if you are close. And their loud bossy honk, their communication with one another, is fascinating to observe as they encourage the slow, slacker geese to fly faster. They are individuals, yet their unity allows them to move through the sky with great power and mighty impressive precision.

A pair of geese will get together to raise a family and, for the most part, will stay together the rest of their lives (up to 25 years), raising new families each year. Geese have very strong affections for others in their group (known as a gaggle). If one bird in the gaggle gets sick, wounded, or shot, a couple of others may drop out of formation and follow the ailing goose down to help and protect him or her. They try to stay with the disabled goose until it dies or is able to fly again, then they catch up with the group or launch out with another formation. 

Geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. Confinement such as this also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. 

My prayer for us is that we can take a lesson from the wild geese and learn to fly together, to take care of one another, to share  leadership and to honk loudly when someone needs a little encouragement to do better. And for those of us lucky enough to find a partner to travel this journey with, may we honor that relationship with deep reverence, remembering to look deeply for the divine spark in the other as well as ourselves.

Joy and sorrow move through the emotional and physical body throughout our lifetime. As I wrote in my book Back to Happy we cannot hold on to joy anymore than the geese can stay forever in the air. They must find fields on which to land. Joy is a gift to be cherished but not clung to. 

Sorrow, although it does pass, can stay with and affect the body in a negative way if we allow it. We can, however, choose otherwise.

Next up on the Happy Healthy You! podcast  we talk about the issues that can land in our tissues after trauma and how to move through the tough times. 

Like the geese, we must keep moving though the seasons of our lives. Practices like yoga can help. To practice with me, visit my yoga page at


                                          SOMETHING TOLD THE WILD GEESE
                                                            By Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, "snow."

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, "frost."

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,

Winter in their cry.


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